A recent study investigating the relationship between sleeping habits and a predisposition to Alzheimer’s has revealed a link running in two directions. The first is that the disease causes alterations in the brain that may disrupt sleep and the second is that poor sleep may in fact promote these changes.
Lead scientist, Professor David Holtzmann from Washington University School of Medicine in the U.S. has said:
“This link may provide us with an easily detectable sign of Alzheimer’s pathology. As we start to treat people who have markers of early Alzheimer’s, changes in sleep in response to treatments may serve as an indicator of whether the new treatments are succeeding.”
Animal studies have been conducted on mice, which reveal a link between a lack of sleep and beta-amyloid plaques. These lumps of protein found in the brain are typical in those suffering from Alzheimer’s.
The latest study involved 145 volunteers aged between 45 and 75. The participants showed no signs of memory loss when they enrolled. Samples were taken of the volunteers’ spinal fluid and the analysis of which showed 32 had the molecular markers of pre-symptomatic Alzheimer’s.
Participants kept a sleep diary for two weeks, recording what time they were going to bed and what time they got up. They also noted any naps taken throughout the day and any other relative information. Movement sensors worn on the wrist recorded their activity throughout the day.
Results revealed that volunteers showing pre-clinical Alzheimer’s had a ‘sleep efficiency’ of 80.4% compared to an average of 83.7% in those without the Alzheimer’s markers. Participants with the markers were also reported to nap more often through the day.
Scientists say when looking at the worst sleepers (those with a sleep efficiency of 75% or less) they found they were five times more likely to have pre-clinical Alzheimer’s than better sleepers.
If you are concerned about your sleeping habits, visit your GP. If you (or somebody close to you) are already suffering with the implications of Alzheimer’s or Dementia it may be worth talking through your issues with a qualified counsellor. To find out more, please see our Dementia page.
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